Garrett McNamara: Big Wave Surfer
Published on 06/06/2012
By Madison Kahn
It’s unclear just how large the monster was that Surfer Garrett McNamara, 44, caught last November off the coast of Portugal, but one thing is certain—it was one big wave. Since this ultimate feat, McNamara has been lying low, waiting for the next big thing—or wave—whatever that may be. We caught up with McNamara at the Teva Mountain Games in Vail this past weekend where McNamara was judging the slack line competition, of all things.
Q: Garrett, there are no big waves in Colorado. What brings you to the Teva Games?
A: Teva asked me to be a celebrity judge for the Slacklining competition. I don’t know much about the sport, but I always see slack lines at tradeshows and have always wanted to try it.
Q: Can you even slackline?
A: I can get across, but don’t know any tricks or special moves. I try to protect myself from getting injured, any way other than surfing. People think I’m crazy, but I won’t sky dive, won’t ride a horse or a motorcycle. I don’t do anything except ride big waves.
Q: What’s your perfect wave?
A: A hollow barrel. It’s what I live for. Once you’re in it, you’re in your own world and time stands still. It’ll take your breath away.
Q: Was that what it felt like to ride the big wave you surfed last November?
A: That was nothing special. I had a good long drop, a turn and then kicked out. For me to have a good ride, I almost always have to get in the barrel. When I tried to get in the barrel on that one, it kind of exploded on me. It hit me so hard it made me realize this was one serious wave.
Q: How big was it?
A: We’ve gotten out the ruler a few times, but it’s tough because you can’t find the bottom. Who’s to say where the bottom is exactly, anyway? It’s as big as you want to make it.
Q: What’s your response to the critics who question the size of your wave?
A: Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinions. I didn’t go out there to get a record or to get the biggest wave. I just went out there to have fun.
Q: What else is out there?
A: We found a wave that’s a lot bigger, but for now, I’m just going to chill for a while. We’re going to Nicaragua this summer to teach the locals about recycling their trash so that it doesn’t destroy their ocean. Then in September, I’ll go back to Portugal for a big Red Bull contest and to film a 3rd documentary.
Q: What’s the most important piece of gear you use?
A: I have a survival suit that’s enhanced with a special Camelbak oxygen pocket in the suit's lining that allows me to breath underwater. It protects me from anything I hit and floats me to the surface, whether or not I’m conscious. The other essential gear I always have with me is Raw Elements sunscreen.